Our "In Conversation" series features long-form interviews with visionaries and change-makers

What do an indigenous ceremony in Canada, Burning Man, and an occupied salami factory in Rome have in common? They are all expressions of the gift economy featured in a new documentary by Robin McKenna.

Robin has worked in film for twenty years on several projects, including The Take with Naomi Klein (a film about workers who take over the means of production in Argentina in the wake of an economic collapse). Drawing inspiration from Lewis Hyde’s book, The Gift, Robin McKenna set out to chronicle gift cultures around the world that are challenging the logic of global capitalism. The result is her first feature-length documentary — GIFT, which is out now in theaters across the United States and Canada.

Is localization a solution to the crisis of capitalism? Listen to our interview with economist Helena Noberg-Hodge. It's often said that the economic system is rigged. The truth, however, is that the system is working exactly as it was designed to. Those in power, whether they hold public office or whether they sit in the boardroom of a multi-billion dollar international corporation, have taken great lengths to set up a system of rules that benefit them and maintain the status quo.

Helena Norberg-Hodge, a pioneer of the New Economics movement, has spent many years studying the driving forces behind why our economies are failing us, and what we can do about it. Helena’s perspectives are informed by a systems thinking and colored by the many years she spent in Ladakh, part of the larger region of Kashmir, where she watched global capital completely transform entire communities.

The dark shadow of Silicon Valley is growing longer everyday, covering more and more of the globe and spreading not just technology, but a particular value set as well. In his new book, Keith A. Spencer goes further than just picking on a few high profile companies and lays out an argument for why Silicon Valley, at its core, is a highly exploitative and problematic industry. With a look at the tech world from the vantage point of the marginalized and oppressed—those who have not benefited from the incredible wealth bubbling up in the valley—"A People’s History of Silicon Valley: how the tech industry exploits workers, erodes privacy, and undermines democracy," presents a damning thesis for why this new world of addictive gadgets and union-busting is increasingly undemocratic and dangerous.

For the last 150,000 or so years of human evolution, not a whole lot changed. That is, until about 10,000 years ago, when in the blink of an eye we began organizing societies in very, very different ways. What happened? The answer has something to do with agriculture...and ants.


We spoke with Lisi Krall about her eclectic research that has brought together an odd mix of disciplines and a lot of uncanny comparisons. We also explored the ramifications of her findings, which pose much deeper, philosophical inquiries into the existential, environmental, and economic challenges that human societies are facing in our modern era.

In this Upstream Conversation we spoke with author Alex S. Vitale about his new book, “The End of Policing.” Vitale’s work is based on a deep examination and structural critique of the fundamental nature of policing. Vitale stresses that it’s not enough to enact superficial reforms to a system of policing which was, at its core, designed to maintain systems of oppression and inequality. Vitale argues that instead of our current approach of inhumane and ineffective punitive force, we should be going upstream to focus on the root causes of problems, focusing our attention on addressing inequality and providing community and social programs for those in need.

In this Upstream Conversation we spoke with Jason Hickel, an anthropologist at the London School of Economics, about how book “The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions”.  Hickel argues that we cannot begin to seriously tackle the climate crisis until we take a hard look at the growth-dependent economic system that drives fossil fuel production and consumption. He believes that simply regulating fossil fuels is not enough, and that in order to truly address climate change we'll need to move away from our current capitalist economic model, a model which can only function properly when it is growing exponentially. Our conversation took many turns, exploring what 21st century socialism might look like, the myths of international development, and more.

More interviews from our "In Conversation" series